Spend a few days exploring excellent museums, bohemian cafés and historic churches in this spirited student-driven city.
Cluj-Napoca, often known as simply Cluj, has Romania’s largest student population percentage. The youthful crowd lends the city a cosmopolitan air and contributes to its lively nightlife scene. People-watch from the terrace of one of the open-air cafés lining the city’s main square, admire lovely Baroque architecture and attend a show at the theater and opera house.
The city’s main square, Piaţa Unirii, surrounds St. Michael’s Church, one of the most striking examples of Gothic architecture in the country. Inspect the late 14th-century altar as well as the gorgeous 15th-century frescoes decorating the southwestern chapel. Stop by on Saturday evenings to hear one of the church’s free organ recitals.
Stroll through the Alexandru Borza Botanic Gardens, one of the largest gardens in southeastern Europe. Look inside the gardens’ museum and explore greenhouses filled with tropical and desert plants. Among the highlights in the garden are the 7-foot-wide (2-meter) Amazon water lilies and the serene Japanese garden.
Visit the superb Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania, one of the finest ethnographic museums in the country. Spread across two floors, the museum features more than 65,000 artifacts, including tools, weapons, crafts, traditional clothing and household items. The museum also includes an excellent open-air component, displaying a collection of peasant houses and buildings.
In the evening, watch a play or opera at the colorful Romanian National Theatre. The theater was designed in the early 20th century by well-known Austrian architects Fellner and Helmer. Check out photos of past performances decorating the walls of the opulent lobby.
Cluj-Napoca International Airport is 4 miles (7 kilometers) from the city center, which can be reached by bus or taxi. The city is also well connected to Braşov, Bucharest, Budapest and Sibiu by train. Reach the main attractions by bus, tram and trolleybus. Many of the major sites and hotels are actually within walking distance of one another. Experience the beguiling charm and fascinating culture of this bustling city.